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Thursday, January 19, 2006


I thought there was a First Amendment around here someplace

We understand why school officials have problems with gang colors and symbols, but we don't understand how a drawing in its own right can constitute a violation and what sort of due process involved the young man in this story from the Chicago Tribune. Could this be just more of Bush era surveillance and repression?

Drawing gets freshman expelledSchool says sketch was a gang symbol
By Tim Kane
Special to the Tribune
Published January 19, 2006

A 16-year-old high school student in [Chicago] northwest suburban McHenry has been expelled for drawing what school officials said was a gang symbol in his notebook.

The McHenry Community High School District 156 school board emerged from a closed-door session Tuesday night and voted unanimously to expel Derek Kelly from McHenry High School East Campus for the rest of the school year.

The youth would be allowed to re-enroll in the district in the fall but is not allowed to attend any state public school for the rest of the school year, Principal David Moyer said Wednesday."We would treat him like we would any student," if he returned, Moyer said. "He would have to do what is expected of him just like anybody else."

Kelly's mother said her son would take correspondence courses to continue his education at home."He is not going back to the school district next year. I'm not sure we'll even be here," said Kathy Kelly, who has three other children, ages 18, 9 and 2. "I'm not going to pay taxes to the district."

A school official saw the drawing Jan. 3 in Kelly's planner while Kelly was serving an in-school suspension for leaving class to use the restroom without permission, his mother said. The drawing is of a cross, with a spider web on one side and a crown at the top. In the middle of the cross are the initials "D.L.K." The teen, whose full name is Derek Leon Kelly, said the initials are his. School officials have alleged that they could stand for "Disciples Latin King," his mother said. The Latin Kings and Latin Disciples are rival gangs.

Kelly had been warned twice before by school officials not to doodle crowns because of the Latin Kings symbolism, his mother said. Crowns are a Latin Kings symbol, according to law-enforcement Web sites.

Kelly attended the board meeting with his mother and stepfather, Jose Mercado. He wore baggy-style jeans with a crown embossed on a pant leg. His mother said those jeans came that way off a store rack. His mother said the clothing is a style worn by teenagers. She called the drawing in her son's notebook a doodle.

The parents insisted that their son was not a gang member and that they had moved from another suburb to make sure he did not get involved in gangs."He needs to be in school," Mercado said. "He's only 16. He didn't draw the picture on a wall. It was in his notebook."Kelly has attended the school for three years but is still a freshman. Noting that her son has been written up 54 times for disturbing or cutting classes, his mother said, "Obviously, he is a disciplinary problem."

"They were just looking for something to get him on," she said Wednesday.Kelly's older brother, Justin, left the high school in October but is enrolled in the district's alternative program, in which he takes classes by computer. His mother said school officials asked him to leave the high school.Officials would not comment on the case, but said he has not been expelled and is still a district student.
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

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